MINISTER’S TURBULENT TIME ON FRONT LINE COMES TO AN END
LANISHA Rolle’s departure from the Cabinet is the latest sore point in a turbulent public career that began when Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis – then the leader of the opposition – chose her to be a senator for the Free National Movement in 2015.
Since then, she has endured several controversies.
In 2016, she was forced to resign as senator after The Tribune published details of a secret recording between her and then political FNM hopeful, Lincoln Bain.
During the recording, she was heard discussing the political future of several party members and was especially critical of then FNM MP Loretta Butler-Turner, who was Dr Minnis’ rival. Earlier that year, she criticised Mrs Butler-Turner in a radio interview.
In 2017, she sparked public outrage when she told reporters that marital rape is a “private” issue.
And in 2019, Dr Minnis forced her to reimburse the government $580.42 for pins bearing her image – the pins were distributed to young people participating in a Youth in Parliament event.
In addition to the public controversies, Mrs Rolle proved unpopular in the ministries within which she worked – the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and, previously, the Ministry of Social Services.
In fact, the departure of several high-ranking officials in the ministries have been privately linked to her, including that of at least one previous permanent secretary and deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture.
Tavarrie Smith, the head of Project Youth Justice, an organisation that defends children and youth, said yesterday that the Minnis administration must now rebuild trust with youth and sports organisations.
“Iram Lewis (the new minister) will be challenged to bring many stakeholders back to the table who have walked away over the years,” he said.
“Unlike other ministries, Youth, Sports and Culture’s success depends largely on external bodies who work alongside the ministry in order to fulfil its mandate, whether they are youth organisations, sporting associations and the artisan communities.
“Many of these persons have refused to engage under Lanisha’s leadership and Lewis’ first agenda item ought to be to reach out to them. MYSC cannot function without its alienated stakeholders,” he said.
While in opposition, Mrs Rolle was said to be a fervent supporter of Dr Minnis.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
PRIME Minister Dr Hubert Minnis ordered a lockdown of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture just days before an internal audit he requested uncovered findings that led to the resignation of Sea Breeze MP Lanisha Rolle, The Tribune can confirm.
Dr Minnis accepted Mrs Rolle’s resignation from her ministerial post yesterday, with a statement from Cabinet Office noting that “certain matters have been brought to” his attention and are currently under investigation.
The Tribune understands that when ministry officials and the board of the National Sports Authority became concerned that established processes and procedures were allegedly not being followed at their agencies, they took their concerns to Dr Minnis on Saturday, February 13.
Dr Minnis is said to have then immediately requested a “lockdown” of the ministry, ordering that no cheques or contracts be issued.
The following day, Sunday, February 14, he asked Financial Secretary Marlon Johnson to launch an audit into the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and to report its findings within at most four days, this newspaper understands.
Dr Minnis received the report from the ministry’s internal audit department on Thursday, February 18.
The Office of the Auditor General is now auditing the National Sports Authority. Its focus intersects with the inner workings of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture.
Iram Lewis, previously the minister of state for disaster preparedness, has been appointed the new minister of youth, sports and culture.
Although Mrs Rolle intends to remain the representative of Sea Breeze until the end of this term, sources yesterday said it is unlikely she will receive the Free National Movement’s nomination for the next general election.
Mrs Rolle was previously the only woman in Dr Minnis’ Cabinet.
She is the fourth minister to resign this term, joining Brent Symonette, Dr Duane Sands and Peter Turnquest. She informed Governor General Cornelius Smith of her resignation in a letter dated February 23.
Mrs Rolle did not answer calls seeking comment yesterday.
However, her father, Derek Thompson, stood outside the Churchill Building yesterday morning and verbally attacked Dr Minnis while a Cabinet meeting was held inside.
“I came here today because I know my daughter, she is the one who helped the honourable Hubert Minnis to win,” he said. “We made sure our prime minister is a prime minister. We sacrificed for our prime minister. We want to know from Bain and Grants Town and all over, honourable prime minister, where is your heart, where is your respect for people who helped you?
“You ain’t’ supposed to let anybody tell you to turn against a helper.”
He also claimed his daughter was told she would not be nominated to run in the next election.
“If y’all want this country turn independent, it will turn independent because you have turned your back on people who have helped you,” he said.
He added: “Hubert Ingraham taught you better than this.”